You were in Paris for six years and now you're here. Why Hong Kong? "It seems like an exciting place to be, a different environment than Paris, with different flavour profiles. It's great for food for one. It really feels like a city, and the pace of life is so different from what I've been used to."
Why did you close Bones? "My partners and I had different visions of how we wanted to work and where we wanted to go, and we decided it wasn't going to work between us. I was emotionally attached to the restaurant but it was good to close it for the right reasons while it was still relevant and busy."
What's Belon going to be like? "Belon [which is scheduled to open in SoHo next month] will be my idea of a neo-Parisian bistro, doing what chefs in Paris did 10, 15 years ago, where they stepped out of fine-dining kitchens and tried to create delicious food at an accessible level. I want to cook for my friends. I've been visiting local farms here and the fish market in Aberdeen, to see what we can and can't work with. I'm trying to minimise imports and use as much local ingredients as I can."
Your father was a diplomat. What was your childhood like, living in Canberra, Paris, Riyadh and San Francisco? "It probably influenced my parents' approach to food more than mine. They are good cooks, so we ate well growing up. When you're a child you don't realise how well you eat until you leave home - you just think it's normal. I went to boarding school in Brisbane and found out how bad it can be. I had anaemia because I didn't want to eat the meat because it tasted so bad. I liked to read anything not related to school, and my parents had an extensive library of cookbooks. People like Richard Olney, Elizabeth David and Alice Waters expressed why they believe in food so strongly and so romantically, and that captured me."
So how did you get into cooking? "I was washing dishes in university and started noticing ingredients in the kitchen were ones my parents had, so I started talking to the chef about food. Eventually he said, 'Why don't you try it?' And I just enjoyed it. Now I can't imagine doing anything else."
Do you have a favourite ingredient? "I like the local cucumbers. They have a nice, rounded flavour compared to the generic ones. Some of the squid and clams are great here, wild flounder and sole. I go to Pier 7 [Star Ferry Pier in Central] to see what the farmers have for sale and that's what I cook for dinner."
What do you like to do when you're not in the kitchen? "I love travelling and I had a nice summer in Galicia, Spain. The food culture is good and you can surf there. Surfing is a nice escape."
What are some of your favourite restaurants? "Etxebarri, in San Sebastian, Spain, which is known for its wood-fired cooking. Roberta's, in Brooklyn, feels quintessentially Brooklyn. There's a wood-fired oven, a tiki bar and a Michelin two-star restaurant. And Le Chateaubriand, which kick-started the food scene in Paris."